My Mother, Always a Guardian Angel

This post is a Six Word Saturday contribution. Please check out Debbie’s source post here.

Today Andy and I are visiting my mom’s resting place in Clifton. Tomorrow would have been Mom’s 67th birthday. Since tomorrow’s weather calls for a messy, wintry mix, the hour commute to Clifton would be unsafe to travel.

My mother is never too far from my thoughts. This year marked some significant life events, and I wish she was physically by my side to celebrate with me. I take some comfort in knowing that my mom is always present in my life. However, the silence left by her absence feels too much.

As Andy and I visit Mom today, I’m going to remember her calm nature during our phone conversations and visits. I’m going to keep in mind how much Mom always wished for the best in my life. She is always my guiding light.

Note: Feature Image taken by Cherryville Photography

September 11, 2001: Eighteen Years Later

I remember exactly what I was doing that day.

I lived in Northern NJ. I just finished breakfast, and turned off the television to go online. Since it was 8:30am, the horrible news hadn’t broken yet.

I was just checking email, readying myself to take the train to South Orange that afternoon to hang out with friends.

About 20 minutes later, the Breaking News clips flashed on my screen: The World Trade Center was under attack.

No. It couldn’t be true.

I quickly flipped on the television, and for the next couple of hours, I was confronted with the sight of the Twin Towers on fire. Falling to the ground.

All I could feel was shock, and horror. Shock, because my uncle and roommate from college were working in Manhattan that morning. Horrified at the carnage unfolding before my eyes.

I decided not to travel to South Orange that evening. This gathering could wait. Being with family could not.

Thankfully, my uncle was safe. He chose to stay at a hotel in Manhattan that night due to impending travel restrictions.
I couldn’t get a hold of my friend until that evening, due to phone lines tied up throughout the day. She made it home to the Bronx that night, but it took the entire day.

While everyone in my family circle was safe, sadly there were many others who could not say the same thing.

A no-fly zone was strictly enforced throughout North America. I remember sitting outside my front porch that night. The silence that greeted me was deafening.

The days and weeks that followed were filled with sorrow. Flyers of the missing were draped throughout Lower Manhattan. Many people clinging to that thread of hope, waiting for a reassuring word that never came.

A week later, I returned to New York City for a class. I remembered the sight of Lower Manhattan still in smoke. The area would continue to smolder for weeks.

The years that followed the attacks were met with the construction of the 9/11 memorial (which opened on 2011), and the fight for 9/11 First Responders receiving the care they desperately needed (which finally received renewal this year).

The one thing that remains constant through time is the Sept. 11 rememberance on television. It’s a somber event, as people recite the names of the deceased. This year, some of the grandchildren/nieces/nephews are reading names. It’s doubly touching; while they weren’t present to see their relatives, their memories are kept alive.

Eighteen years later, crowd surrounding the World Trade Center site grows thinner, but the message of remembrance stays the same.

Life goes on, yet we must never forget.

Books I Discovered Through iaPOETRY

     My passion for writing and poetry stems from my years in training as a Poetry Therapy Practitioner in iaPOETRY, based in New York City. iaPOETRY (International Academy for Poetry Therapy) is a strong and supportive network of teachers and clinicians founded by Lila Weisberger (now headed by Jill Teague and Geraldine Campbell). I trained as a Poetry Therapy Practitioner from 2004-2011.
Since my start in the organization 15 years ago, Lila and her supportive community paved my way in becoming a strong writer and poet. They’ve shared some valuable reading material throughout my journey in Poetry Therapy. These are just some of the books that hold a special place in my heart.

Finding What You Didn’t Lose: Expressing Your Truth and Creativity Through Poem-Making by John Fox
Genre: Poetry/Education
Length: 320 pages
Publisher: TarcherPerigree
Release Date: September 1995

My first conversation with Lila Weisberger was over the phone in early 2004. During that first discussion, she shared with me the value of John Fox’s book for implementing poetry as a creative healing tool. Fox describes many ways to build your words with creativity and expression. There are many exercises in the book that allows people to use everyday items in your home and work setting to express your thoughts.

Bird by Bird: Some Instruction on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
Genre: Education/Literature
Length: 237 pages
Publisher: Anchor
Release Date: January 1994

This book serves as a useful tool for writers/poets who wish to learn new techniques on their craft. Using her own experiences in the writing process, Lamott provides the reader multiple exercises in applying brainstorming and free writing in order to flesh out a first draft for a book and/or a collection of poetry. I appreciated the advice that a draft is a document that can always be edited later. I could greatly relate to the advice in marketing yourself…that the process of marketing is a job in itself. My first collection of poetry (A Blossoming Journey) was through a self-publishing company, and getting your work out there is truly a process you must take on yourself. As overwhelming as it seems, I continue to push along and create. The most important thing to do, first and foremost, is to write!

Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames by Thich Nhat Hanh
Length: 227 pages
Genre: Self-Help/Spirituality
Publisher: RIverhead Books
Release Date: August 2001

Many of my poetry therapy colleagues apply Thich Nhat Hanh’s wisdom in achieving peace and mindfulness, yet I picked up one of his books for the first time 5 years ago. During this time, I lost my job in New York, then my apartment a couple months later (no money=no lease renewal). I moved back to New Jersey with relatives, feeling very frustrated about my life journey at that stage. It was at that point when I picked up Thich Nhat Hanh and took in his valuable advice for the soul. The words in Anger served as a soothing balm for my soul. My hurt feelings didn’t dissipate overnight, yet Thich Nhat Hanh allowed me to breathe, to think about what I really needed to guide my soul to heal.

Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss by Hope Edelman
Genre: Non Fiction
Length: 390 pages
Publisher: Da Capo Lifelong Books
Release Date: March 2006 (2nd Edition)

10 years ago, my mother passed away from heart failure. This was no doubt the darkest moment of my life. Along with my family, my poetry therapy community was there to guide me through this difficult time. While working my way through the grieving process, some dear colleagues recommended that I read Motherless Daughters as a healing tool. This book was just what I needed in that rough time, as Edelman shared story after story of women enduring the heartbreak of losing their mothers. The pain from losing my mother never truly fades, yet reading Motherless Daughters (along with a strong support system) helped me move through this difficult stage in my life. 

And StillI Rise: Poems by Maya Angelou
Genre: Poetry
Publisher: Random House
Length: 54 pages
Release Date: August 2001 (1st edition: 1978)

     Still I Rise is part of this memorable poetry collection by Maya Angelou. I first became aware of its powerful message while training in Poetry Therapy. Maya Angelou is a powerful poet and storyteller. She endured so much trauma throughout her life, yet she persevered in sharing her story with an unflinching voice as an African-American woman who created rich tales and poems to empower others. I came across Still I Rise in my studies several years ago, and I loved the strong voice it contains. Angelou’s message comes from triumph in the midst of chaos. Despite slander and hate, Maya Angelou kept moving forward in her life. I turned to Still I Rise last year, since I was going through a very rough period in my life. This particular poem helped me out in life immensely.

Summer 2017: iaPOETRY gathering at Tavern on the Green

     There are many more books that I discovered in my studies as a Poetry Therapy Practitioner, but these few were instrumental in my creative growth. Along with the guidance of my wonderful community, these books helped shine a light in my journey as a poet and writer. I will forever be thankful to my iaPOETRY community.

For more information about iaPOETRY, contact:

Jill Teague: Out of the Blue Writing

International Academy for Poetry Therapy

Memories of Mom, Ten Years Later

My mother passed away from heart failure 10 years ago, on the 22nd. I still remember that day like it happened yesterday. It was a Sunday, and I was living in Throggs Neck, NY, ready to run and do errands. My phone rang and saw it was my uncle. I loved catching up with my family once a week, whenever possible. In this instance though, he brought the devastating news that my mother passed away.

I couldn’t function, couldn’t think straight. I knew I needed to head to my family’s house in New Jersey immediately, but couldn’t bring myself to get ready. My partner at the time had to pack my luggage so I would be ready for the journey.

What followed that week was very emotional. My aunt and I did the task of updating family members of my mother’s passing. We (along with my grandfather) spoke with the funeral director about the arrangements. I searched through photos of my mother to create a collage of her memories.

I continue to keep Mom in my memories. Over the years I’ve written poetry in her name, and I’ve followed my path maintaining her mantra: ‘Of course you can do it, you’ve worked hard’. I’ve encountered some bumps in my life journey the past few months, yet her words still resonate in my soul.

It’s now been 10 years since that horrible moment, and I still miss her greatly. She’s never too far from my thoughts.

December 1, 2018: Remembering Her Birthday

The beginning of December is always bittersweet. My mom would have been 66 on this day, yet she is no longer with me. I wish I could say to her ‘Happy Birthday’, and have one more conversation with her. To hear her voice one more time. Mom would always take things in stride, and I know that right now she would want me to live my life, not think about many negative things to keep me down. She was always a low-key type of person. Today is definitely a moment to connect with family. It’s a Saturday, which means that I give my family a call to check in. Hopefully my grandparents are in good spirits.

November 10, 2018: Mixed Feelings

A chill is in the air this weekend. I haven’t been outside for a few days, yet I can feel the draft seep in when sitting near the kitchen window. Winter made an unannounced visit to remind autumn that yes, the dormant season is right around the corner.

This time of year brings its blend of celebration and sadness. Celebrations, since Thanksgiving and Christmas brings together family and friends. Sadness due to some of my loved ones departing around this period. December 1 would’ve been my mother’s 66th birthday, and that time is always difficult. Next weekend will be a year since mine and Andy’s beloved beagle Daisy went to the Rainbow Bridge. I still remember the day she passed. I think those memories will always stick with me.

Perhaps I feel so melancholic today due to being stuck in the house most of the week. Cabin fever is a wicked thing.

August 11, 2018: Too Quickly

The meeting at the Bronx fell through. I had a feeling it was never coming to pass when I heard no response from Johanna’s former house mate (the person who still has her things). The issue of who cares for a loved one’s possessions is a touchy subject, especially if the person has passed away, like Johanna. I worry about what will become of Johanna’s writings and poetry material. She didn’t leave a will. It was too early in her life to consider one, and when she realized that her time on Earth was drawing to a close, the end came quickly. Much sooner than everyone was prepared for. I still think of Johanna every day.

July 31, 2018: Still Lingering

It’s been a couple days since ACTIONWEEK (the annual poetry therapy intensive) ended, yet I’m still feeling its impact very strongly. I go about my day, handle work tasks, yet the emotions that swirled around me that weekend still lingers. This year, it’s Johanna’s absence that makes things particularly difficult.

Johanna made it a point to attend the intensive every year, be at every session. Now, her thoughts and laughter are no longer with us. The silence that came with this realization was heard by everyone.

July 27, 2018: My Thoughts on ‘The Lovely Bones’

‘The Lovely Bones’ tells the story of Susie Salmon, a fourteen year old girl who was killed by a neighbor back in 1973. The story is told in Susie’s perspective, beginning just before the crime takes place. The book then follows the lives of Susie’s friends and family, and how they handle the loss of such a special person. Susie is viewing her loved ones from her place in heaven, longing to guide them through their events and struggles, but unable to intervene.

‘The Lovely Bones’ is a very emotional story. It was difficult at times for me to read certain parts due to the intense conflicts among the characters. At the same instance I couldn’t put the book down. The story being so raw and moving, and I eagerly awaited the fate of Susie’s family members as they navigated through life without her.

I enjoyed reading ‘The Lovely Bones’; it’s been available in stores for a few years, but I finally came across it at a nice bookstore in Wildwood, so I decided to pick it up. I’m glad I did!